It had been a late Friday night for me after watching KidBritish in Manchester. So with just 4 hours sleep, I woke up at 06:00 in order to catch the 07:30 train from Manchester Piccadilly to Swansea. I was rushing about frantically making sure I had packed everything, as I was staying over at Lucys for the night. I even packed my emergency Bovril cubes.
I met Joe Buckley at Piccadilly. You may remember him from pre season. If not, he’s about 7ft tall, and he likes to stroll around with LIDL bags. I kid you not, he turned up at Manchester Piccadilly with a LIDL bag. This resulted in me pretending I wasn’t with him for a few minutes, but I felt a bit mean, so I spoke to him in the end.
The train set off from Manceinion (that’s Arriva Trains language for Manchester) and we did a bit of groundspotting en route to South Wales. I nearly weed when we zoomed past Shrewsbury Town and Cardiff City as I had never seen them before… exciting stuff, I know.
After listening to Zack moan about the Arriva Wales service for years; since his trips to Cardiff to watch Man United, I was expecting the worst. However, the journey was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting, and we even managed to have a laugh about the on-board caterer. Omar was in charge of food and drink this morning, and what a strange character he was. He looked exactly the same as Andre Bikey, and had a laugh like Jimmy Carr. Now, despite him offering a frequent service, I must say… whatever happens in Crewe, stays in Crewe.
Down he came with his trolley, when suddenly he clocked that Joe was reading a Daily Star. Omars eyes lit up (a bit like Raymond off Max & Paddy – if you’ve ever seen it). Omar then whispered in Joe’s ear “Where are you getting off this service?”. Slightly confused, he answered “Swansea?”. Omar then grabbed the paper, hid it on his trolley (just behind the sandwiches), and walked off.
Great. We were now paperless. What could we do? That’s right! We could wait until Shrewsbury when Omar would return with the paper.
Upon receiving the paper back off Omar, Joe had a quick flick through. It soon became apparent what had happened. Omar hadn’t read the paper at all. He had removed all images of naked women, perhaps for personal use? We really were confused to say the least!
Arriving in Swansea at 11:40 we passed the Liberty Stadium on the left. I must admit, it looks far nicer in the sun. Last time I visited the Liberty I can safely say it was one of the most depressing settings I have ever seen for a football match.
It was then time for Lucy to give me my birthday present! It was only 13 days late, but I’ll let her off. I opened the football wrapping paper slowly, just to annoy her. She had only bought me the Swansea home shirt, with the Premierleague badges on the sleeves AND it even had GIBBONS 8 on the back. It looked beautiful. I can safely say it’s the nicest football shirt I own.
With that I pulled on my Swansea shirt, and I became a member of the Jack Army. I say I was part of the Jack Army, I wasn’t really. I had my Wigan Athletic scarf in my bag, and I was hoping for a win for my local Premier League team!
Lucys mum dropped us off at Rossi’s Chippy. I had been waiting nearly a year to visit Rossi’s. The locals had been telling me how “lush” it was when I was planning my last visit down, but we decided to go to Harvester instead with the Bolton fans. So, the time had finally arrived. Is Rossi’s really that good? Or is it distinctly average to a well trained Northerner like myself?
I asked for a Steak Pie and chips in my strongest Wigan accent, which obviously threw the “dim” girl behind the counter. She prepared a tray of satisfactory chips, and then she told me she’d need to “put my pie separately as there’s no room in the tray”. I looked at her in an unhappy manner and demanded that she put the pie on top of the chips. You know, just like normal people back home do? Dear me.
Altogether it came to £3.20, and it was a decent sized portion for my breakfast. The pie was a basic Peters Pie, but on a small scale. They aren’t as big as the ones available in the ground – available at £3.00 in the home end, and £3.50 in the away end! Yes, that’s right. Pies cost more in the away end at The Liberty Stadium.
Now that the Northerners had been fed, we walked up to the Landore Social Club to see Lucy’s Dad. I felt a bit out of place in the club despite having a Swansea shirt on, so I decided to keep my mouth shut to avoid being spotted. There was a bloke behind the bar who was wearing a Tottenham shirt which confused me a little.
With 45 minutes until kick off, we strolled up to the ground and dropped Joe off at the away end. He was by himself, bless him. I was going to go in the away end with him, but Lucy wouldn’t let me, and she dragged me into the East Stand. The tickets cost £17.50 each as students, and Lucy really wasn’t happy with the people who work in the Ticket Office as they had spelt her name wrong on the tickets.
“MACKEMMALL? I’M NOT FROM SUNDERLAND!”
That’s all she moaned about all afternoon. Women eh?
The view from our seats was brilliant, but, then again, I think you’d be extremely unlucky to have a poor view at The Liberty. I noticed that the home concourses were a lot smaller and tighter compared to that found in the away end… and it didn’t have silly slogans plastered everywhere, such as “A beautiful city, welcomes the beautiful game”.
I also found out, much to my disappointment, that the tannoy announcer was still in his job. I honestly can not understand a word that comes out of his mouth. I thought that was the whole point of an announcer? He could be understood by everybody? Although, on the other hand, Wigan Athletic do take it a bit too far by hiring the most annoyingly posh man ever.
The teams soon arrived on the pitch. Swansea in their immaculate white and gold home kit, Wigan in yet another of their generically rubbish away strips.
The match started off a rather cagey affair, with both teams trying to play the same passing game.
On 18 minutes, Wigan captain Emerson Boyce made a mistake which allowed Michu the opportunity to go one on one with Ali Al Habsi. Michu smashed the ball well over the bar, when he should really have opened the scoring.
The home side kept pressuring Wigan when they were in possession, and mistakes were frequent.
Swansea nearly opened the scoring again when Villarreal loannee Jonathan de Guzman curled the ball towards goal from 25 yards. His effort went agonisingly wide of the upright, and you sensed it wouldn’t be long before the home side scored.
Rather unexpectedly, it was Wigan who came closest to scoring when Shaun Maloney found the ball at his feet in the area. Anything other than a tame shot towards Michel Vorm would have seen the Latics take the lead.
There was now wind in the Wigan sails, and Jean Beausejour came within inches of scoring. He beat Angel Rangel for pace down the line, before unleashing a rocket of a shot towards goal. The ball went centimeters over the crossbar, and it surely would have been a contender for goal of the month!
Half time arrived, and we decided we’d go for a walk. However, the awkward stewards at The Liberty wouldn’t let us walk into the next stand, so we were publically shouted at in front of everybody else. I couldn’t understand a word that the steward was shouting at me… so I stood there, looking confused… until Lucy came and rescued me.
I then found out that Bolton were losing 2-0 at home to Bristol City. For some strange reason, I said “We will win 3-2. Something strange will happen!” – Guess what happened? We won 3-2. So, if you want me to select your lottery numbers this week, just get in touch with me and I will be more than happy to do so!
That was it from a very uneventful half time. No pie report this week as I really couldn’t be bothered paying over the odds for a Peters Pie. So off we went, trying to remember where we were sat for the first half!
The second half was a far more entertaining affair for a neutral like myself… yeah right! I tried to act like a neutral, but every time Wigan went on the attack you could tell I wanted them to score. This resulted in Lucy punching me perpetually. It’s not my fault I forgot I was in the home end! I think my BIGGEST mistake of the afternoon was when I applauded the arrival of Jordi Gomez. I got a few strange looks to say the least!
Wayne Routledge beat Ivan Ramis on the wing with a fantastic piece of skill. He then squared the ball to Pablo Hernandez who finished with precision from the edge of the area. It was a fantastic team goal.
Just two minutes later, Michu doubled the lead from a corner.
Wigan looked beaten, but suddenly, out of nowhere… they pulled a goal back! Arouna Kone fired the ball into the area, and Emerson Boyce somehow flicked the ball past Vorm into the net. The goal was that good it even made it on to the closing titles of Match of The Day. Well done Boycey!
The game was soon nearly turned on its head when Arouna Kone headed in from close range. The Wigan fans behind the goal were in full celebration, before the linesman brought a halt to the party atmosphere by raising his flag.
Michael Laudrup brought on Danny Graham and Nathan Dyer. Surely Gary Caldwell couldn’t cope with these two? Correct. He couldn’t. They tore the Wigan defence to shreds, and quite how Swansea didn’t score again I will never know.
The final action of the match saw Ali-Al Habsi head towards goal from a corner. Michel Vorm saved again, and it gave Swansea their first league win in 6 matches.
We left the ground and walked around to the away end to collect Joe. We couldn’t find him at first, and we feared he had either been trampled by one of the Police horses, or he had gone to LIDL to do a spot of shopping ahead of his trip back up North. Luckily we soon saw him towering above the crowds, and we went for a walk. His train wasn’t leaving Swansea until 19:00, so we decided to go to Starbucks.
I walked on to the Starbucks balcony; which overlooked The Liberty. I was walking to a table when suddenly I heard a voice say “Are you Joe?” It turned out it was Nina who follows me on Twitter! She was with Mike, who is a work colleague of her other half. Her other half was getting some potatoes from Morrisons after they had a food related argument during the match.
After staying on the balcony for around 45 minutes, we decided to walk up to the train station… and wow. It’s a long walk for people with small legs like myself! I wasn’t at all happy. I’d had a frantic 24 hours, with hardly any sleep, and I was expected to walk back into Swansea? We could have got the bus, but I’m not a fan of public transport in foreign countries.
Lucy and I were going back to some station that began with “Ll”, so we needed to buy train tickets. I was dressed like a yob, and the woman behind the desk looked a bit intimidated. She probably thought I was a drug dealer of some sort. Her suspicions were confirmed when I went to pay her. I pulled a huge wad of money out of my pocket, drug dealer style.
We said goodbye to Joe, and caught the train back to Llansamlet where I would be staying for the night.
It had been a great day out, and it was a far more enjoyable experience visiting The Liberty Stadium in the sunlight. It didn’t seem half as depressing! It was also better being in the home end, as I felt a bit out of place last year when I was in my Bolton shirt. So, if you want to see The Liberty Stadium for the great place it is… go in the home end on a sunny day!
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 238 miles
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £3